J.D. Meier's Blog

Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness

Actions, Insights and Notes

Actions, Insights and Notes

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I find chunking my notes from lectures and training helps me turn insights into action.  I chunk my notes into three categories:

  • Actions - this is a tickler list of things I'm going to go do.
  • Insights - this is a tickler list of distinctions and "ah-ha"'s from the sessions.
  • Notes - this is my raw tickler list and details of key notes throughout the session.

Why It's Effective
It's simple, but effective.  It's effective because rather than just a list of notes, it's distilled actions and reference points.

Putting It Into Action
Here's what I do 

  1. During the session, I can capture a lot of notes fairly quickly.  I typically use a pad of post-its and jot down key things.  These are my raw notes.  For example, during the lecture or training, I'll take a bunch of notes in a pretty linear fashion.  It represents a stream of real-time notes. 
  2. I transfer the notes to an electronic store (usually notepad).  This is a fast, focused step.  Sometimes I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking software and just read my notes rappidly.  I title this section Notes.
  3. I scan my notes and cherry pick the insights.  I put these under an Insights section that I create above my Notes section.
  4. I scan my notes and cherry pick the actions.  I put these under an Actions section that I create above my Insights section.

The result is a crisp set of actions, a crisp set of insights, and then a full reference list of notes.  Taking  a few quick passes through my notes, reminds me of key things and helps the information sink in deeper.   Deliberately turning notes into insights and actions also helps retention.  Think of it as challenging yourself to use what you learn.